Imagine a landlocked country bordered by China in the East, India in the South and West and Tibet (now also China) in the North. Imagine a country where many ancient cultures are still today preserved, where the climate can vary from tropical in the valleys to cold alpine deserts at altitudes over 8000m.
The collision of continental plates pushed fragments of the earth’s crust vertically up to form the highest mountains on earth. This is a relatively recent occurrence when compared to the age of mountains in our country. This created a wonderful vertical world with permanent snow on the mountain peaks, massive glaciers up to 23km long and scenes unequalled anywhere in the world. The geological transformation process is active even today and for a South African the instability of the mountain regions is evident. A collapsed steel bridge, where the one wall of the gorge fell down in a massive landslide and a path through glacier moraine landscape that has to be rerouted weekly is enough prove that this is an ever changing world.
The challenges offered to mountaineers to climb most of the peaks over 8000m and many more above 6000m remain extreme. Many attempts failed and many climbers lost their lives on these mountains. Yet it remains an irresistible challenge to stand on top of one these great peaks.
The Nepalese are not a specific race. A great variety is noticed ranging from typically Mongolese and Chinese to Indian. Due to the remoteness of settlements in the mountains some inherited features and lifestyles have been preserved.
Until recently access to some areas were closed to tourists due to the remoteness and the lack of exposure of the people to the outside world. There is no typical Nepalese!
The ability of these people to pick up huge loads (sometimes in excess of their own body weight) and to carry this over any terrain up and down mountains even at altitudes above 5000m is simply unbelievable. The way in which the human mind and body are able to adapt to its environment remains one of the miracles of our world.
Of the most famous people are the Sherpa climbers, some of whom have scaled Everest and other 8000m peaks several times. Likewise are the Gurkha fighters who are feared soldiers and who are in permanent employ of some western countries. Yet the Nepalese generally are a very friendly and likeable people possibly the result of many years of existence in a harsh environment.
Hinduism and Buddhism are both strongly represented in Tibet. In both cases the teachings have been founded in Tibet or at the least were very strongly influenced by leaders, who found answers to their questions, in the mountains. The Tibetan culture is greatly influenced by their religion with numerous religious festivities, monasteries where dedicated monks are educated in the teachings of Buddha, and an abundance of temples and monuments.
The typical patience and good nature of the Nepalese people, might to a great extent, be the result of the practical application of their specific blend of religion!
Imagine a city, with five million inhabitants, without traffic lights and stop streets. It bustles with traffic consisting of large busses, light vehicles, motorbikes, tricycles and pedestrians. Yet I have not experienced any accidents or bad tempered drivers. The key to it all seems to be lots of patience, allowing every road user his right of way and ample use of hooters.
Business is hectic in the narrow streets with every conceivable item on sale. Branding seems to be a flexible concept as the buyer can never be sure that an item is original or fake!
Landing at Lukla, one of the most dangerous airports in the world. Nepal only became a democratic country during this century. Only now some of the neglected areas are attended to but much has to be done to make full use of the Nepalese resources. Access into the mountains is simply by aircraft into hazardous landing strips and from there on foot. In these regions there are no vehicles and transport is either by yak or by the unbelievably strong porters. Helicopters are used more frequently now for freight, rescues and passenger transport up to 6000m.
Roads with some exceptions, consist of narrow gravel passages winding up mountain sides with sheer drops that makes any of our famous passes look like childs play.
However the scene is rapidly changing as access roads to more remote areas are constructed.
There is precious little level ground available for cultivation of crops and it is interesting to observe the ingenuous way that mountain sides are contoured with terraces. The visitors to the mountains can be sure of fresh vegetables with their meal in a teahouse.
Obviously the main attraction to Nepal is the spectacular Himalayan mountains. Thousands of trekkers from all parts of the world accumulate on the well known routes during the autumn and spring seasons. The summer monsoon and cold winters are less popular. It should be, noted, however, that trekking is but one of many activities available in Nepal. The game parks with elephant rides, river rafting and meditation venues are but some of the alternatives.
To explore Nepal is a must at least once in a lifetime! The cost is comparable to or even cheaper than other destinations and the value for money definitely the best. For more information and a full itenary please contact Hikers Paradise in Centurion on 012 663 7647 or attend a workshop on this unique experience on 16 January 2014.